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A Beginner's Guide to Discipline

Table Manners

Bad table manners

When babies start feeding themselves, expect a mess. For one thing, babies are born clowns. When your baby drops a spoon or shovels cereal impatiently into her face, everyone reacts  -- which delights the little performer, who does it again in hopes of getting the same reaction. But your laughter not only reinforces these habits, it can be dangerous; if a baby laughs while her mouth is full of food, she could choke.

To discourage bad eating habits, it helps to parcel out small dollops of food on a baby's plate so there is less to make a mess of. And although it's true that her emerging sense of competence gets a powerful boost each time her antics provoke a response from caregivers, enough is enough; if you want to keep this little ham offstage, don't laugh or get upset when she acts the clown. If her playing gets out of hand, assume she's not hungry and take away her food. Finally, even at this early age, table manners are taught by example. If other kids (or adults) are laughing with food in their mouths and making a ruckus, your little imitator will want to do the same.